Publication Date

April 2019


Steven Horst




English (United States)


In their text The Embodied Mind, Francisco Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch address the disconnect between current attitudes towards consciousness in the scientific community and lived experience. For them, not only is a disembodied approach to cognitive science emotionally jarring, but it is philosophically untenable. They argue that contemporary philosophers and cognitive scientists must take the first-person study of the mind seriously as an epistemological endeavor, suggesting that Buddhist practices of meditation might serve as an essential vehicle for both understanding the mind and integrating the challenging findings of cognitive science into lived experience. This portion of their argument was not well-received within the philosophical community, partially because they lacked a sophisticated framework to make intelligible what embodied practices actually do. I introduce the framework embodied knowing to account for a variety of kinds of bodily knowledges and histories that emerge through social and environmental conditioning, trauma, professional training, as well as embodied practices. This framework gives language to deepen Thompson, Varela, and Rosch’s argument that embodied practice is essential for anyone engaged in intellectual work. Embodied Knowing may also create a conceptual bridge between traditions of embodied practice and Western academic culture. To do this requires careful negotiation between radically different epistemological frameworks, as well as a recognition of the colonial and neo-colonial histories of oppression involved with maintaining certain kinds of knowledge as superior. I then explore embodied knowing as a liberatory framework which can be applied to existing problems in philosophy and critical theory. It gives us language to perceive new forms of oppression, offers powerful liberatory practices, and informs contemporary discourse around how truth and knowledge function as categories. The aim of this thesis is not in making ontological, metaphysical, spiritual, or religious claims, but providing the framework of embodied knowing as a tool for readers to think with and live into. The strength of this argument lies in the effectiveness of the category as a way of seeing rather than as any strong claim about what the world or the human-being is.



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